In previous posts, I wrote about what empowerment is and why it is so important in leadership. Even with this clarity, there are barriers that prevent our conviction from being implemented in our ministry/organization. Below are seven barriers that prevent leaders from empowering others to help with projects, programs, processes, and people. Over my decade of ministry, I have allowed each one of these barriers to prevent me from empowering others, thus robbing them of the opportunity to use their gifts and leaving me exhausted.

Ego “I want the credit.”

Often, we don’t share responsibility, because we don’t want to share the spotlight. By empowering others, the credit for success moves from yourself to the emerging leader. The loss of direct recognition causes some people to hold on to all the decision-making. Instead, as leaders, we must understand that recognition given to our team members is the highest praise we can receive. If not, we are prone to be like King Saul who becomes envious of David because he receives more credit than him for Israel’s success (1 Samuel 18).

Excellence “It would be better if I did it”

When a leader empowers others, the productivity will initially drop. As an experienced leaders, we are in the position we are in because of our excellence, while an emerging leader will often have never done this role before. At the beginning, the new leader’s production will not match our standard of excellence. But empowerment is not the enemy of excellence. We just have to change our perspective and focus not on the short-term loss of productivity, but the long-term gain. There will always be a dip in production at the beginning, but with good coaching and equipping, the team will reach a level that it couldn’t before.

Expediency “It would be quicker if I did it”

No leader has ever said, “I just have too much time on my hands.” Often, leaders struggle to fit everything into a normal week. This prevents leaders from empowering others, because it takes time to stop and evaluate how you could do things differently and what decisions you could delegate. Also, once you delegate a project to an emerging leader, it takes significant time to train them to do what you do with ease. Much like the excellence barrier, we must focus on the long-term gain, not the short-term loss.

Control ” I don’t know what will happen if I let others do it”

The control barrier is one that is driven by fear. This happens when we worry about what will happen if every decision doesn’t go through our personal filter. The controlling leader has little faith in anyone other than himself. Furthermore, he has naively attributed success in the ministry to their leadership and not God’s provision. If we want our organization to grow, we must see the potential in people and extend trust. We can have growth or control, but we can’t have both.

Clarity “I don’t know what to give away”

A common struggle for leaders is to organize their thoughts and externalize what an organization needs. Discernment and intuition are two things needed in a good leader, but unless a leader can externalize what he does naturally, it will prevent him from providing the necessary clarity to empower others. It is important for us to take time to identify not just the decisions that need to be made, but the values and the philosophy behind those decisions. Until we unpack what we do naturally and share it with others, we will continue to be the lid for the organization.

Guilt “I feel guilty giving that away”

Leaders often feel guilt about delegating responsibilities because they feel like they will not be fulfilling to the emerging leader because it is either too big, too small, or unenjoyable (to you). Often, the problem is not with the responsibility, but with the experienced leader. For large projects, people need an inspiring vision. For small projects, people need to see their significance of their role. And for the tasks that are unenjoyable, you need to find the person who would enjoy it. When we select the right person, give clear expectations, an inspiring vision, and good coaching, emerging leaders will feel energized about their role whether it is big or small.

Complexity “It’s too much to give away”

Often, responsibilities are overly-complex. In order to contribute, you have to be a staff member, formally trained, or willing to give up all other hobbies and interests. A leader needs to assess the full scope of these responsibilities and identify areas that can be simplified. Additionally, the leader needs to be intentional about providing support and training that will maximize an emerging leader’s contribution.

Of these barriers, which have you experienced the most? Would you add one to the list?


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